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Vice President Stefan Rensing provides information on research data management at the University of Freiburg in an interview

Freiburg, Mar 22, 2023

The vice president for research and innovation has elaborated possibilities for handling research data in collaboration with the university’s chief information officer, IT Services, the University Library, and the Division of Science Communications and Strategy.

Stefan Rensing explained the current status of the research data management at the University of Freiburg. Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing, vice president for research and innovation at the University of Freiburg, spoke with uni’intern editor Judith Burggrabe about research data management and explained the current status of the topic at the University of Freiburg.

uni’intern: Why is the topic of research data management so important?

Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing: It is important to ensure that research data, which are usually financed by public funds, are stored in an appropriate manner and made available to others. Research data generated from a DFG project do not belong to the researcher but to the scientific community, so it must be ensured that the data are available for further use. Awareness of the relevance of this topic has grown steadily in the past years, particularly as the handling of research data has been dealt with quite differently within the individual disciplines.

A lot of progress has been made on this topic at the University of Freiburg in the past two years, especially on the handling of sensitive research data. Among other things, plans for a research information system, FIS for short, have been elaborated. What is the current status of this project?

At the moment we do not have a functional research information system, but the Rectorate has approved the resources for its implementation. The core idea behind the FIS is that information about University of Freiburg research – meaning the whole complex of publications, third-party funding, patents, and prizes – is stored on a system and thus made available to members of the university. We are following a recommendation of the German Science and Humanities Council on the so-called Core Data Set for Research (Kerndatensatz Forschung – KDSF). The external presentation of the University of Freiburg’s research achievements will be based on this KDSF standard.

How will the FIS benefit the researchers and when will it be introduced?

The benefit may be viewed from three possible perspectives. The first is external presentation according to the KDSF standard, which includes, for example, obligatory reports to the State Statistical Office. The second is the internal perspective: The FIS gives the university management and administration the possibility to obtain information on a daily basis, for example about externally funded projects. Finally, the FIS provides the researchers all the data they need for self-promotion, that is, for their CV and website, collected in one place.

There is another means of identifying researchers besides the FIS. Its name is ORCID iD. How does it work, exactly?

The idea behind the ORCID iD is to uniquely identify people who publish. For example, if your name is Hans Müller, then you will have a big problem differentiating yourself from all the other people named Hans Müller who also publish. That is why it is also common in research to use middle initials to make it clear who has published. This is an inadequate solution, however, which is why ORCID, a nonprofit organization, was established several years ago. It offers people who publish a unique identification number. The University of Freiburg is a member of ORCID and has decided to make the ORICD iD obligatory for all people who publish at the University of Freiburg. Incidentally, you can read here how to enter your ORCID iD into the university’s FreiDok system or register directly with ORCID.

What role does the uniform use of the university’s name play in the handling of research data?

There are different ways to write the name of the University of Freiburg. The databases on which the publications are listed and analyzed make an effort to combine all of these variants, but this is not always one hundred percent successful. This is one of the reasons why the Rectorate decided in 2022 that the university’s name should be specified exclusively as Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg or Universität Freiburg in German and University of Freiburg in English. The university’s official abbreviation is UFR. This is important so that publications by members of our university can be correctly assigned and so that the fundamental data for evaluations such as peer reviews or rankings are correct. In connection with the ORCID iD, we would like to make it possible to find publications by members of our university, thus providing more visibility for their research achievements.

The “Research Data Management Group” meets regularly at the university under your leadership. Who is part of this working group and what are your working on?

The working group includes chief information officer Prof. Dr. Marc H. Scholl as well as representatives from IT Services, the University Library, Freiburg Research Services, and the faculties. There are now several people at the faculties who devote a large part of their working hours to research data management, for example so-called data stewards. The meetings are primarily about how to put our plans into action: How can we ensure that data continues to be available to the community after the projects end? How can we best implement the use of ORCID iD? A very important point is the policy for handling research data at the University of Freiburg passed by the Rectorate in 2022.

Who can people interested in the topic or employees and students seeking advice contact?

The Research Data Management Group has a website and an email address. Those seeking advice can send an email with their request. The response will generally come from Jan Leendertse, who will then forward it, for example if it concerns a particular faculty or the University Library.


Policy on the handling of research data at the University of Freiburg: DOI 10.6094/UNIFR/231612 or via FreiDok plus: